I don’t know what this is, this feeling of dread I can’t shake off when it come and goes. Whenever this visitation inflicts itself upon me, my heart starts to race, I feel nauseous, weak and dizzy.
This has been happening a little too often lately. Like last night, when I got home from work at 10 pm to find my boys sound asleep. I kissed their foreheads and wished them good dreams like usual. I plopped down on my couch to wind down after a long day when I suddenly felt this creeping anxiety grip me.
I used to feel similar pangs before but they were nothing I couldn’t shake off. In the grocery, while driving, in bed trying to sleep, during a meeting or a even a casual conversation. But I would always just chalk it up to stress. I’m just tired and crashing, I would tell myself.
What’s worrisome is the sensation of some impending, unknowable dread, which is new to me. It’s not something I can easily deflect with Jo Stafford’s No Other Love on my iTunes which I would play ad infinitum whenever I’m in a mood. There’s something about the song, maybe its the cadence or the words, that reassures me.
It’ll be awhile until I can get a professional to tell me what this is. I do not want to speculate since I’ll just drive myself crazy. Or crazier than usual.
So, last night, during my worst episode so far, I willed myself to use the light of my happiest memories to fight the inexplicable darkness that I was beginning to feel. It worked out beautifully, (until my car hit a pole on the way to a meeting today. Oh, well) one flashback after another, like seeing my life’s happiest moments unfold yet again:
Watching my son being born, cutting the umbilical cord, wondering how something so little and so fragile could be so beautiful.
Holding my second son right after he was born, wondering what his chubby cheeks are made of.
Drinking with friends in college. Someone has a guitar and we’re singing old songs. It’s 1 am and we’re waking the neighbors but we don’t care. Someone’s telling a sad story like his world’s about to end. It’s 3 am and we’re out of beer. We comb the dark, dingy side streets of Recto looking for a store that will sell us more. But someone wants fresh milk so we walk farther to the 7-11. It’s 5am, we’re driving to España to eat pares and then race the sun home. Wondering what time I’ll get to school when I hadn’t even slept yet.
Waking up at the old retreat house in Antipolo on a cool Saturday morning. It’s time for breakfast. The shuffle of feet dragging sleepy bodies, the shrill of a bell herds them to the mess hall. I smile knowing they’re in for an awakening all day today and well into the evening. Superfriend is waiting.
The first time I walk her home. I run away when she asks me to come in so she can dry my shirt because I’m all sweaty.
The first date at Inca. She can’t stop giggling when I apologize for mangling her crepe. She thinks I’m flirting.
June 28, 2000. Yeah, I was flirting.
Finding a store that sells turntables and old vinyl records while we stroll around Sikatuna Village. I find Bread’s “Lost Without Your Love” and the guy who owns it says he likes me and decides to give it to me. It will be a few years before I can make her listen to ‘Belonging’ since I don’t have a turntable yet.
Hugging my siblings and my mom whenever they come home to visit from the US. It’s like getting a piece of myself back.
That hot birthday dance, October 2014. I’m glad I brought my wingman.
Lost and alone in the jungles of Northern Cambodia, looking for an ancient mountain temple. I can’t walk any more so I offer to pay a local I just met to carry me. He won’t, so I stop every few meters to rest and fume at myself. This gets me nowhere so I just pray and pray and pray with each agonizing step up. And then, reading a book at the garden back in my hostel for three days since I can’t walk because my legs are still sore from the climb.
February 2016. That smile.
Dressing up as Darth Vader, hiring a Jedi cosplayer to surprise my firstborn on his Star Wars themed birthday party. We duel after he is given his lightsaber. The look on his face when he unmasks me as I say, “I am your father!”
August 2016. Tough talk. I’m trying not to cry when my panganay tells me he will always love his folks no matter what. And then he farts. And then we laugh.
Slow dancing to Roberta Flack, Jo Stafford and Esther Satterfield. And then, a few fleeting months later, the last time I saw that face, that smile.
Jumping out of an airplane. I am crazier than I thought.
My 12 year old sees me deep in thought, worrying about something I likely did not need to worry about. He asks me, “Hey, dad, how are you? Are you all right?” I smile.
I am grateful I have these memories, and these kids, to light up my life.